We live on a planet with a finite supply of resources and continuing with wasteful patterns of resource use is not sustainable. Even the most conservative projections for global economic growth over the next decade suggest that with an increasing global middle class, demand for oil, coal, iron ore and other natural resources will rise by at least a third.
Waste management focusses on the end of a product’s life, however efforts must be targeted at the opportunities to prevent waste by influencing the design, production and use of products, and to promote a circular flow of resources and materials within economies.
Our work in this area covers the circular economy, waste management regulation and policy, recycling and other components of the waste hierarchy and wider resource management.
In December 2018, Defra published the new Resources and Waste Strategy for England, which can be found here. We welcome the government’s new Strategy, which is comprehensive, ambitious and strategic. With its commitment to fundamentally shift focus towards resources rather than on wastes, the Strategy has the potential to have a real impact on moving the UK towards a more circular economy. Strong leadership from Defra will be required to fulfil the aims of the Strategy, such as tackling plastic pollution, increasing extended producer responsibility measures, and encouraging resource efficient design.
The strategy marks a marked shift towards who pays for the impacts of the waste we produce. It is quite right that this should move towards producers and away from local authorities but equally Government should be commended for committing to ensure that local authorities will be adequately resourced for transitional and additional costs they may face as the new approach is embedded. We commend Defra’s ambition with this strategy but caution that embedding this approach will require support and cooperation across government for it to be successful.
It will also be important to maintain momentum. The 2011 Government Review of Waste Policy also recognised the right direction of travel but failed to back this with sufficient drive and market incentivisation. This time round the commitments are there, but many are years away.
Whilst parts of government will be concerned to minimise burden on business associated with transitioning to a more circular economy, the global challenges we face around resource consumption, climate change, pollution and species extinction are highly pressing and demand committed action. Government must ensure that timelines in the strategy are, if anything, shortened as progress is made.
Heather Gardner, Senior Policy Adviser at CIWEM, said “The new Resources and Waste Strategy is an ambitious step towards a more circular economy. We are particularly pleased to see the Government commit to drastic reform of the Packaging Recovery Note System, and to exploring a move away from weight-based targets, which were two of our key priorities for the new Strategy. We look forward to further detail on these measures without delay if the UK is to be a world leader in resource efficiency.”